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Pushing through XC fears

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  • Pushing through XC fears

    I'll admit I'm a true chicken about cross-country. I've only done "real" XC (going to an XC school with trainer etc.) as opposed to bopping about logs on trails once or twice. Still, I start thinking about how big that looks...really it's quite big, are we going to make it over? as I'm approaching a fence.

    That's clearly not the ideal way to approach jumping. In the ring I'm not a lunatic but I have a lot more confidence in my abilities. My question is this: How much do you push yourself through those thoughts coming to fences and when do you say that we'll just be happy doing those logs on the ground for a while?
    Forward momentum!

  • #2
    Why don't you look for a HT that offers Baby Beginner Novice or Intro Novice -- a division that jumps 18" or 2'? First Timers divisions also tend ot have really low fences. Most ponies and horses can step over a 18" fence. The point is for YOU to have a good time riding around. So remove the stress, go for something very low and build your confidence up so that you can progress.
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    • Original Poster

      #3
      That's my plan. I'm doing a log-hopper in a few weeks.

      I was asking more generally as there was one fence on the last school where I told myself to suck it up and it went really well. Then there was another fence where I tried to do that and it....didn't go so well. Oh dear.
      Forward momentum!

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      • #4
        How much experience jumping x-country fences does your horse have? If you are both new to it, I can understand where your concerns would come into play.

        I'm an adult re-rider with a green horse so I understand where you are coming from. However, I have been working with some great trainers and that has worked wonders for building both my confidence and my horse's confidence. (Thanks, Tally Ho Farms!) I would suggest having a trainer ride your horse for a bit over the fences you find intimidating so that you see how easily it comes to your horse. Also, there is nothing wrong with continuing to jump the one fence you DO feel good about until you feel ready to try others.

        I have been jumping logs and smaller jumps for almost a year now and am just now feeling confident enough to move up to BN fences. I KNOW my horse can do it, that's not the issue! For me, being ready to try more came when my horse and I felt really good going over the baby stuff. The funny thing is that when I saw pictures of my horse jumping logs, I realized she was jumping so big we may as well have been jumping bigger fences!
        Last edited by jenm; Apr. 21, 2010, 03:28 PM.
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        • #5
          It can be really helpful to have a trainer in this situation. They don't even need to ride your horse, but to put together strings of exercises that increase your comfort level. Try to find a trainer in your area who is known for instilling confidence in greener riders.
          OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jenm View Post
            How much experience jumping x-country fences does your horse have? If you are both new to it, I can understand where your concerns would come into play.
            I agree with this. I am a totally competent chicken and my chestnut mare doesn't help with that.

            I have found that I have to be really honest when I am getting scared. I had to learn to listen to myself (which is really hard when the voices in my head can be a bit irrational!!) In part, when you over-face yourself on a horse green to x-c you run the risk of convincing them that there is something to be scared of. I have decided that I will take fences that look big, but when I feel woozy or get a pit in my stomach just looking at it from on my horse we need to pass.

            You will be amazed at how fences that scare you now will become less scary after a few good rounds at your current level. Cut yourself some slack, do what you are comfortable with to start and you will know when you feel ready. TRUST YOURSELF AND FIND A TRAINER THAT YOU CAN TRUST AND WHO RESPECTS YOU.
            "We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals" Immanuel Kant

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            • #7
              Guess what? It doesn't change as you move up the levels. You now know how Denny Emerson and many others felt at Rolex etc. You are not alone.

              I remember an interview with Pippa Funnel who always asked herself, "What the hell am I doing here?!" before going out at Advanced. Or, Matt Ryan who was notorious for vomiting due to nerves when he got to the start box.

              Fear is not a bad thing. It is what you do with it.

              Reed

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              • #8
                "Fear is not a bad thing...its what you do with it."
                That's so true Reed. On so many levels.
                A good start box Mantra!
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                • #9
                  ClassAction, I know exactly how you feel. I previously had serious xc fear issues as well. I had a bad fall at novice and my trainer was fatally injured in a xc accident, so my confidence was shot. I went back and forth for a long time trying to figure out how to overcome the fear. I also considered eliminating xc from my life completely, but decided that I love it too much to just quit.

                  It took me entering several events only to have the courage to complete the dressage and stadium phases. I would walk the xc courses and feel anxious the entire time. Just the thought of actually riding xc was enough to make me have trouble breathing. I fought with this for a long while and in the process, retired my beloved old man and bought a new, green TB gelding. Of course, his inexperience only added to my xc worries.

                  After a few years of only working him on the flat and in the stadium ring, I decided that if I wanted to overcome my fear, I would need to find a way to just do it. I then found a working student position at the farm of an AWESOME trainer/rider. She has helped me SO much. Unlike many working students, my goal was not to quickly move up the levels, but simply to learn to do xc safely, have fun and overcome my fears.

                  That was the best decision I ever made for myself. She had a small xc course in a big field at home where we practiced over very small fences at home without the added stress of being somewhere new. I took lessons (flat and jumping) everyday and we got to the root of my problems xc, which were that I was pulling on the horse and therefore, the horse was pulling on me before and after the fences (scary). Once I learned not to pull, life was perfect.

                  So, the point of my story (sorry so long) is that IF you really want to get over your fear of xc, then you just need to get out and DO IT. Preparation is the key to feeling confident. Even if that means you start out by doing flat work in the field, then progress to hopping over tiny logs, then progressing to small fences at a trot...whatever makes you comfortable. Once you get comfortable with one level, you will get bored and want to do more.

                  The horse you're sitting on makes a HUGE difference as well. I know that for me, my horse's inexperience worried me, but once I built a relationship with him and began to trust him, it got a lot better. I rarely worry about xc anymore. In fact, stadium has become more difficult than xc now. I have taken lessons with many knowledgeable trainers who praise my horse for his honesty and there have been many times I look around at the horses other people are riding and I am SOOOOOO thankful to be sitting on Rocky. He is happy to do his job, doesn't look for reasons not to do his job, and that makes him very brave and trainable. His attitude/confidence gives me confidence.

                  We have been competing at BN for the last year and I hope to move up to Novice this year.

                  If you want it bad enough, you will find a way around the fear. Good luck!!!

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ClassAction View Post
                    I was asking more generally as there was one fence on the last school where I told myself to suck it up and it went really well.

                    That's what I tell myself...followed by, you are ready and you know what you are doing... Honestly, you will always have a bit of "fear". What you do is you prepare yourself...so you are not lying to your self when you tell your self to suck it up, you are ready to deal with this.

                    Walk up to those fences in the ring that you are comfortable with...see where they measure on your body. When you walk your cross country course...remind yourself that these fences are no bigger. Sometimes I walk a course that is a level or two bigger than I'm competing before I walk my course....makes my fences seem smaller.

                    But in the end, it is having confidence in your training and preparation. It is knowing how to spot the question being asked by the jump...and how you are supposed to answer it. It doesn't mean you will always answer it correctly...but you will have the plan for how you want to answer it and then RIDE for that answer....and you will have confidence in your preparation that you have trained to be able to answer this sort of question.

                    But you do have to control those butterflys....and we all have them....but the more prepared you are...the easier it is to make them fly in formation and use them to your advantage!
                    ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                    • #11
                      Sounds to me like you need to practice. Go out and jump as often as you can, on as many horses as you can. Doesn't need to be difficult, or big, you just need to jump more jumps. The more you do, the better your base, the more you will be able to make better decisions on the fly. When I first started galloping racehorses it took me 2 years and literally 1000s of rides before I really felt that I could walk, trot, canter, gallop any horse I got on, and if I couldn't the horse had major issues that had nothing to do with me. Bear in mind, I had already had made up 2 Intermediate horses and done some 3 days. I still felt the need to just plain put riding miles under my belt and I am glad I did, it made a huge difference. So, my advice is to ride, ride, ride, and watch good people ride when you can't do it yourself. Youtube vids are great.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                        Fear is not a bad thing. It is what you do with it.
                        VERY well said, and so true.
                        Whenever i was reeeally nervous about Spring Bay the week before because i just got my first horse a month and a half before that and i felt like i had no control at all..My trainer was giving me words of encourgament (he's great at that!) and told me how its normal to have butterflies..you just gotta get them all flying in the same direction
                        he also told me that about Matt Ryan haha

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          Thanks guys. I'm very lucky to have a great trainer who always asks if the fences are OK. I'm also on a horse who has really DONE stuff up to novice (and schooled training I believe) so it's not a matter of his competence at all. I also know he tries hard for me and I trust him to bail me out no matter what I've mucked up on the way to the fence. Honestly, we got up to one fence last time we were out and I could just feel him thinking, "Lady, seriously? Ok, well, I've got this one. I'll get us out of it."

                          I need to do a lot of log-plopping but also figure out where the line is between fear I must push through and fear I should listen to. Cause even if trainer asks me if I'm OK with a fence, I have to make that call. Am I OK, OK to push through, or not OK?
                          Forward momentum!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Why not keep a journal? Log what you have done on XC, what felt like a real stretch but was okay, what felt easy, what you tried but still didn't feel so great and what you weren't ready for. Keep it up to date. Make very small goals with your trainer. Attempt those goals, update your journal. Look back over it and see if you are doing the same thing over and over or if you are truly making progress in combating your fears. If things still seem scary but you find WOW, I did way more than I was willing to 6 weeks ago, you will realize you are conquering your fears. If you find after some time that you are still frozen on the same old things, then you can re-assess.

                            It is amazing that I could gallop my old guy down to a huge four foot oxer or bounce, big drop into water and know that we would be fine, but one week later trotting a greenie to a log might strike major fear in my heart. It helps to set perspective and keep track of how you are doing.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree with those who recommend going out and practicing. Start with fences that you feel comfortable with and when those get boring, try something a bit larger.

                              How about going on some hunter paces? There are usually a range of xc fences, sometimes with different heights. Nice thing about a hunter pace is that you can skip a fence if you're not comfortable with it, get a lead over a fence or jump something more than once. No pressure!

                              When I first started eventing my trainer would also schedule xc schooling days on courses. Those were also very helpful.

                              Foxhunting is also a good way to get some mileage. Of course, it depends on the territory and the size of the fences, but where I hunt most of the fences are not too big and very inviting.

                              Good luck!
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                              • #16
                                Class, I have been thinking about your question all day. I can't find an answer. I have never (well, never is a big word, I guess, mostly never or almost never) been afraid to tackle cross country jumping, it's what I and lots of my friends live for.
                                We grew up on ponies, hacking about the neighborhood, building jumps on the trails to run over, galloping around the front yard jumping junk, just all my life trying to find things to jump horses over. We loved the trails, fields, woods -- and couldn't wait to try the jump trails! No matter what smarmy little pony we were riding!
                                Of course, those days are over, and I'm much older, stiffer, fatter, smarter. I do look at a jump and think about it now. But I am not riding at a level where I am so much afraid of what is being asked on cross-country courses, because I am preparing at home before I get there, and we have methods of making the jumps look smaller...like walking the course a couple of times...they always get smaller by the third walk!
                                Cross country is the heart of the sport, the part we all wait for, the part we are in it for. It should not scare you that much. it should definitely make you think about how you are going to ride each question, but you should have a toolkit, a background of riding skills you can use to help answer the questions asked by each log or fence. Knowledge is power. Knowing what to do should really make a difference. Being scared has to do with control -- how much you feel you may have (or not have). Learning what to do IF ... should help you gain more control, and make things start to be fun.
                                One thing I learned early on. You have to kick the pony to make it jump the ditch. Translated into adult language, that means on cross country we have to have horses in front of the leg. If this is something you're not sure about -- you need to find someone who can teach this to you, because it is ALL of cross country riding. Ask me how I know! (Loss of vertical order a few times pounded that into my brain!)
                                Cross country should be the part you can't wait to go and do. I hope you stop being scared and start enjoying it very soon.
                                Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
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                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by retreadeventer View Post
                                  Class, I have been thinking about your question all day. I can't find an answer. I have never (well, never is a big word, I guess, mostly never or almost never) been afraid to tackle cross country jumping, it's what I and lots of my friends live for.
                                  We grew up on ponies, hacking about the neighborhood, building jumps on the trails to run over, galloping around the front yard jumping junk, just all my life trying to find things to jump horses over. We loved the trails, fields, woods -- and couldn't wait to try the jump trails! No matter what smarmy little pony we were riding!
                                  Of course, those days are over, and I'm much older, stiffer, fatter, smarter. I do look at a jump and think about it now. But I am not riding at a level where I am so much afraid of what is being asked on cross-country courses, because I am preparing at home before I get there, and we have methods of making the jumps look smaller...like walking the course a couple of times...they always get smaller by the third walk!
                                  Cross country is the heart of the sport, the part we all wait for, the part we are in it for. It should not scare you that much. it should definitely make you think about how you are going to ride each question, but you should have a toolkit, a background of riding skills you can use to help answer the questions asked by each log or fence. Knowledge is power. Knowing what to do should really make a difference. Being scared has to do with control -- how much you feel you may have (or not have). Learning what to do IF ... should help you gain more control, and make things start to be fun.
                                  One thing I learned early on. You have to kick the pony to make it jump the ditch. Translated into adult language, that means on cross country we have to have horses in front of the leg. If this is something you're not sure about -- you need to find someone who can teach this to you, because it is ALL of cross country riding. Ask me how I know! (Loss of vertical order a few times pounded that into my brain!)
                                  Cross country should be the part you can't wait to go and do. I hope you stop being scared and start enjoying it very soon.
                                  I used to enjoy it! Ten years ago I took a pony with um zero brakes over lots of stuff bareback. Then I really broke myself in a fall (massive pelvic fracture) and now that I know how much I can break things are different. It's a lot easier now to freeze, take my leg off and have my brain go "uhhhhhh."

                                  Now I enjoy the idea of it and want to enjoy the doing. I think you folks are right about the going out and about.
                                  Forward momentum!

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                                  • #18
                                    I feel that the fear means that you realize that the course deserves respect and should be ridden accordingly. I know one fellow that says he is not fearful at all on XC day and he constantly gets 20's and E's (possibly because of it?). The only difference is whether or not you ride with the fear. At my last show and second Prelim, late Friday night/early Saturday morning I had to get up 3 times during the night to either dry heave or vomit. While I getting ready, I was constantly going through my course frantically on what ride where on course. But, as soon as I get on my horse, I must turn that fear into boldness for both my own and my horse's safety. The fear/respect is still there, but it HELPS my riding since I think that every jump, my horse will need my help and to support him 200%. We went clear with no hairy moments.
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                                    • #19
                                      I can be a chicken!

                                      My favorite thing is to go to schooling places that have different levels of jumps.

                                      If you put a training log in front of me I'm walking in the other direction!

                                      but if I can start with a 2ft log, then a 2'6 log, then a 2'9 log.. etc the training log doesn't seem as bad!

                                      A lot of school facilities have build up jumps like these and it helps me mentally.
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                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by ClassAction View Post
                                        I used to enjoy it! Ten years ago I took a pony with um zero brakes over lots of stuff bareback. Then I really broke myself in a fall (massive pelvic fracture) and now that I know how much I can break things are different. It's a lot easier now to freeze, take my leg off and have my brain go "uhhhhhh."

                                        Now I enjoy the idea of it and want to enjoy the doing. I think you folks are right about the going out and about.

                                        That is hard. I NEVER had fear of anything riding related until I was first seriously injured in my early 20s (collapsed lung, broken ribs, coughing up blood....) While I got back on riding very soon after getting out of the hospital (against doctor's orders)....the first time I went to jump even a simple cross rail, I had major butterflys. NEVER had felt that before. I had to really push myself a bit mentally to control it. But if you watched me ride (other then maybe a really trained eye like Jimmy Wofford)...you would not have know that I was fighting to get rid of those butterflys.


                                        It took me almost a year before I would say I didn't have to consciencously fight down "fears" or butterflys. What helped the most was just time in the saddle....and honestly, falling off a couple of times where I didn't get seriously hurt.

                                        Cut yourself a bit of slack. Remember that you do this to enjoy it. It isn't enjoyable as you are working through those fears....but you can overcome them. But if you can't....it isn't really failure either. It is just life....

                                        Spend more time riding on a good horse....and give yourself some credit. If the fears are there because of the accident that you had...it really takes time riding (and falling) again to overcome them. This is where that age old saying about getting back in the saddle comes from....it is true....and if you have taken time out from the riding/jumping....it is a bit harder and takes longer to get over or control that fear.
                                        ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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